Start of A New Global Movement
In January 2019, P&G brand Gillette brought out a highly misandric campaign and that started a new global movement to boycott Gillette and eventually all P&G brands. Similarly, after the Hindustan Unilever brand Surf Excel promoting Love Jihad, people wanted to boycott Hindustan Unilever. In this article I will tell you why none of these brands actually care about these boycott. First, I will explain why the male backlash to these brands (based on P&G example) doesn’t really matter to them. Then I will briefly explain why even if the society wants to boycott these brands, they can’t.
So, if you are a male who got pissed off by the Gillette Ad that showed masculinity is toxic and most males engage in unacceptable behavior and have taken a vow not to use any Gillette or P&G products and doing your best to boycott P&G; let me tell you bluntly that P&G doesn’t care as a brand if we males want to boycott their products and today I will tell you why.
If you have ever thought that P&G will learn a lesson from this ‘experiment’ and will change their advertising strategy, you are far from reality as Procter and Gamble as a company has no intention of going back on their brand strategy of promoting feminism.
Feminism – P&G Strategy
In June 2018, the brand declared a strategy of having at least 50% of women directors for their commercials up from 10% at that time. So, a staunch feminist directing a sexist ad campaign for Gillette – a predominantly male brand, is no surprise.
Now if you wonder how a company can survive with this kind of gender-targeted strategy, you need to take a look at the household spending behavior and the bouquet of brands P&G has.
Most P&G products, be it in the personal care, family care, fabric care or baby care is bought by women. Surprisingly, even the male grooming products are also bought by women and there are many marketing studies including this one shows that. Now even though this article says, women want their men to stop ‘stealing’ their beauty products and hence are buying products for their male partners, the reality of household spend data will show you that it’s the women who buy almost all household supplies. So, even though it’s a man’s money spent on shopping, it’s the women who are purchasing those items.
Consumer Marketing Has A Gender
This Bloomberg blog from a seasoned consumer marketer will tell you how do the genders behave in consumer marketing space and if the consumer economy is given any gender, it would be female. That is why the global professional services firm Ernst and Young (E&Y) had predicted in 2014 that the impact of women in the global economy will be at least as significant as that of China and India together. That is about 70-80% of all consumer purchasing.
So, there can be no surprise why P&G can take a bold step of feminizing their advertising world for their brands and could dare to use a staunch feminist famous for her sexist ad campaigns to create an extremely hateful ad for a male brand. So, if lack of knowledge about all P&G brands may be one reason their sales will not be impacted (ignorant about these brands, even males will continue to buy those), the major driving reason will be, it is the women who are buying most of household P&G products, and P&G doesn’t really care what we men think about them.
So, in reality, you may want to boycott Gillette or any other specific P&G brand you know of, there are many other brands you may be subscribing to promote P&G way of sexism.
P&G: History of Sexism
The 2019 Gillette ad showing masculinity is toxic and most males are harmful creatures ready to harm others (including other men) and hence ‘men need to hold other men accountable’ (basically start fighting with one another) is not the first sexist ad from P&G. It may be the most hateful so far but definitely not the first and P&G has a history of creating sexist ads. Since P&G is going strong with their advertising strategy of promoting feminist agenda through their ads and recruit women (read feminists) as at least 50% directors for their commercials, expect more such ads to come. If you are a butthurt male, P&G really doesn’t care because they know it’s not you who drive their sales, even if it’s your money that is spent.
It is important to understand here that this ad from Gillette is not the first sexist ad from Gillette. Even earlier Gillette tried to shame bearded men in India in their campaign Protest Against Smelly Stubble and showed that men with stubble and beard are smelly, dirty and women don’t like these men. Many Indian female celebrities came forward saying men with stubble are smelly and they will not date bearded men. When in reality a study of The Male Factor exposed that all these women just followed the opposite in their life (See this). Apart from being an extremely sexist campaign, the PASS campaign was also hurting sentiments of many religions that mandated men to keep a beard.
In 2012, P&G has made an ad for Old Spice mocking its own previous ads that showed happy housewives in household work. Now that was a sexist ad as well but didn’t really shame men while questioning the so-called ‘chauvinism’. Now whether these ad makers have the right to decide how women should behave or ‘whether a woman who is happy with her happy household should be happy at all’, are some of the debates we can have at a later time; most males didn’t catch the sexism then as it was not very blunt and clearly offensive as the new Gillette ad.
In India, we have seen another sexist ad campaign called #ShareTheLoad from P&G’s detergent brand Ariel. This campaign showed men not sharing household work and women were forced to do the same. The Ariel campaign also gave some statistics from a survey done by A C Nielson and used some data that was confronted in this article on TMF. After this, P&G had withdrawn the statistics part but is still running this campaign in India.
While this campaign tried to add to men’s responsibilities in their family, it also kind of shamed men for not doing their part of work (of doing laundry). An interesting point to note here is, it is the men who buy washing machines in the households and keeps maids for helping the wife in domestic work and also goes out to work to earn for the household, but P&G through its feminist ad campaigns showed that men are still not doing enough.
The Consumer Behavior
The only reason P&G can continue to do this is that they know that men may be in the possession of money, but actual household purchasing decisions are not made by them.
In 2016, on the occasion of Women Day, P&G hosted a panel discussion on ‘unconscious bias’ and their chief brand ambassador has said this – “what you have to do is to make it conscious”. So, their strategy on talking about unconscious bias was to talk ‘openly’ about it. But when P&G has launched its campaign #ShareTheLoad, they never spoke about women sharing the load of earning for the household. If P&G as a brand is honest, it should first talk about the bias in women’s mind of not contributing financially to their household and depending on their boyfriends and husbands.
But as a brand, will P&G or any of its consumer brands ever do it? The answer is clearly a ‘NO’. In a regime when they know that the world’s 70-80% of their sales depend on women, how can they ever shame women for not taking any responsibility in the household? It becomes more of a burning question today when we see that women do not have any responsibility in their families.
So, clearly, P&G is not honest and they don’t want to be honest as well. The way P&G is trying to teach men and boys how to behave in every sphere of their lives, if P&G tries even slightly to teach women any lesson, the brand will experience a great fall. Now you also need to understand that all women in the world behave the same way as a consumer. So hurting their sentiments will ensure death for the brand.
Men Are Tiny Users
You will understand this even better if you take a look at the P&G brands displayed in this article. You will instantly know that for most of these products, men are not the buyers. Many of you may still be buying Pampers for your kids or Olay for your skincare. The reason your choices in all such items will be driven by women in your house is that you as a man may not be a regular user of any of these (except for your safety razors). So, even if you want to go away from P&G brands, women in your house may not. Also, women feel happy when they see men are ‘taught’ how to behave with women or how to share their ‘burden’ of household work. They almost never think that it’s the men who pay for the household maid and indirectly contribute to household work if not directly.
Now a few words on brand loyalty. I will talk about Gillette’s competitor brands in India because at this point it is important to spread those brands as well. Brands like Topaz, Laser, Super Max, Super Master, Silver Prince etc. are Gillette competitor in India. These are manufactured by Malhotra Industries and I worked for them in the initial years of my career. I used to use Topaz as I always used to think that Topaz (double edge blade) is better than other brands. I did try other brands but I always used to feel Topaz is the best.
When I started working for Malhotra, I have seen that all these blades were manufactured exactly the same way and there was no difference in the manufacturing process or in the raw material. Unless these are of premium class blades (say Topaz Gold that comes at a premium) the raw material doesn’t change. But even after knowing all these I used to feel Topaz was better quality than other brands. The point here is, people who got used to any P&G brand, it is almost impossible to move them away. For example, parents who buy Pampers for their children, will not shift to any other brand easily.
Supply Chain And Distribution
To understand why the boycott of any consumer product from a multinational brand and switch over to an Indian brand is not easy, you also need to understand other marketing factors like Supply Chain Management and Rack Space Management. Quality in this era of marketing hardly matters. Because its only about brand perceptions. And most of us get swayed by what celebrities say about these brands. So, quality becomes a perception of others rather than our own.
Recently, I wanted to boycott all foreign brands (P&G, HUL) and wanted to shift to India’s own brand Patanjali. When I looked for these products in my local market I didn’t find these. Even the local supermarket didn’t have these products. So, then I decided to go to a bigger supermarket (Big Bazaar by the Future Group) 15 KM away from my house. Even there I was not able to find these. Then I had to specifically ask the store salesperson to identify the product for me. These were lying on one corner of the rack.
In consumer marketing space, supply chain and rack space management are two very important parameters and Patanjali fails in both. Remember, I am not talking about the quality of the product at all. It is only our perception and that can be created by fake publicity. Patanjali or any Indian / local brand will fail to make a mark in the consumer space because of these shortcomings as well.
Males (and females) Can Be Ignored
As you understand from the above discussion, that P&G (and for that matter any consumer goods company like HUL) doesn’t really care what you think about their brand or want to boycott their products. Women in your household may still be proud of P&G products and will continue to buy those. If you as a woman is hurt by the Gillette ad (as men in your house may be awesome etc.) or by the Surf Excel ad – even that doesn’t matter. There are others who like these ads and they will prove how wrong you are.
But do they really care about even women? To understand this you need to understand important concepts like supply chain management, rack space management, brand perception and loyalty.
Why Boycott May be Ineffective
From previous discussion you know even when the society (male/female alike) wants to boycott such global brands, they can’t. Because these brands have already managed and learnt better supply chain management, rack space management, SKU management and above all brand loyalty. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying. This article is only to show you how difficult it is to achieve.